Wednesday, March 9, 2011





Avatar of Uma - God Siva’s consort
Thilaka V Wijayaratnam

A learned man called Vidyatharar had a daughter called Vidyavathy. Vidyavathy was a devotee of Goddess Uma. Vidyavathy asked her father how she could pray to Goddess Uma. He told her about Uma’s Mantra and asked her to chant it in Madurai, the favoured city of God Siva and Uma. Vidyavathy went to Madurai, observed fasts and sang songs in praise of Goddess Uma. This pleased the Goddess, and Vidyavathy beseeched her to be with her forever. Pleased with her Uma told her, “There will be born a person called Malayathuvasa Pandyan. You will be born in this city and marry him. I will then he born to you.

Goddess Uma

So it happened. Malayathuvasa Pandyan was a king well versed in Tamil and Sanskrit and ruled fairly and justly. He was married to a princess called Kanchanamalai. (who was no other than Vidyavathy reborn). They didn’t have children. So Pandyan performed a yaga to get a child. They fed the yaga fire with ghee, roasted rice and dry sticks and the rishis chanted mantras. In due course they were blessed with a beautiful daughter but the king and queen were worried to see the baby having three teats. (Biologists and rationalists may scoff at the idea, but a few months before there was a news item in the papers to say a baby girl was born with three papillae.

The king lamented at such a child saying his enemies would laugh at him. Then he heard an asariri (oracle), “O king - do not lament. Name her Thadathakai. When she confronts the person she is to marry one of the teats would disappear.”

Happy and consoled by these words, the king brought up the young child well, teaching her all forms of art including martial art. In the days of yore, kings would set out to conquer other states or even countries. Likewise Thadathakai also set out with an army and conquered many cities, states and countries. She defeated the devas and captured Lord Indra’s kingdom - Indralokam too.

The Pandya king was overjoyed at her valour. He crowned her as the ruler of his country. Soon after his soul was liberated from his body. His daughter performed the rites for him and ascended the throne. She had conquered all the worlds and only Kailas - the abode of God Siva was untouched. She however marched towards Kailas, and when god Siva’s celestial attendants confronted her, beat them all and marched forward. God Siva hearing of her prowess, mounted the white bull and came forward. On seeing Him her third teat disappeared and she knew it was God Siva who would marry her. Her minister named Sumathi, told her about the oracle, and convinced her God Siva would be her partner in life. Lord of Kailas God Siva told her to go back to Madurai.

He would come with all his retinue and marry her. The marriage took place according to Vedic rites, with Lord Vishnu handing over His sister Uma - Thadathakai - to Siva, who tied the sacred thread round her neck amidst all the pomp and pageantry of a Hindu wedding. Incidentally these rites are still followed in Hindu weddings. God Siva then assumed the name of Sundara Pandyan and ruled the world.

After the wedding was over all the people, the devas, visitors and devotees and citizens of Madurai were invited to take part of the wedding feast. Among the spectators there were two Rishis, vyakrahapathar and Pathanjali who told God Siva that they could take part of the meal only after witnessing his dance at the Golden Hall in Chithamparam. God Siva told them that Madurai is of greater significance than Chithamparam, and said He would create a Hall of Silver and perform His dance on that stage of precious jewels in the Hall of Silver (Velliampalam).

Because of the request of the two Rishis, all were witnessed the beautiful dance. The people were overjoyed and happily took part of the meal. After all had eaten, there was a heap of food left.

Uma appealed to God Siva saying, “A lot of food is left over and no one to eat. It is like the Himalayas.” There was an individual named Kundotharan standing by and God Siva told Uma to give him a fistful of rice. Thadathakai (Uma) took him to the dining area. Kundotharan gobbled the entire lot and asked for more. Uma again went to God Siva and told Him about it and said there was no more food. God Siva called for the Goddess Annapoorany and she produced mountains of food. Kundotharan ate all that with avidity and was very thirsty and ran looking for water.

He drank from ponds, tanks, wells and from all sources of water and yet couldn’t quench his thirst. He fell at the feet of God Siva and appealed for water. God Siva instructed the Ganges in his crown to flow down Maudrai city as a river (which became river Vaikai). Kundotharan joyfully drank as much water as he could till his thirst was quenched. Then he fell at God Siva’s feet and sang songs of praise and made Him happy. Having taken an avathar, God Siva as Sundara Pandyan ruled the earth.

Like the way God Murugan manifested from the third eye of God Siva, a child like God Muruga was brought forward. This avatar was named Ukkira Pandyan. When he was sixteen years of age Sundara Pandyan decided to fix a marriage for him before crowning him. He chose the daughter of a king of Manavoor.

The girl was named Kanthimathy. God Somasundarer appeared in the dream of king Somasekarar, father of Kanthimathy and told him to give his daughter in marriage to Ukkiva Pandyan. King Somasekarer was overjoyed.

The Chola and Chera kings and all beings on earth paid homage to king Sundara Pandyan. Such a king wants to make his daughter Kanthimathy as his daughter-in-law.

The auspicious day was fixed. The function was no doubt a grand one. Somasekaran took his daughter’s hands and placed them in Ukira Pandyan’s hands saying, “I of Suriya Kulam hereby give my daughter in marriage to Ukira Pandyan of Chandra Kulam.” (This ceremony is known as “Kannika thanam” - offering a young maiden.)

After a few days Sundara Pandyan (God Siva) told Ukira Pandyan, “Son, Indra and Varuna (Lord of the rains) will be your foes. Mt Meru will be arrogant. Here are three weapons.” He gave him a weapon like a boomerang to defeat Indra, a spear to dry the ocean and humble Varuna and another weapon to destroy the ego of Mt Meru.

Thereafter king Sundarer, took all His celestial attendants, Thadathakai (Uma - His consort) and entering the temple remained there as God Somasundarar.


How Varuna was humbled?
King Ukira Pandyan ruled justly and fairly. He did so many yagas according to Vedic rites. Indra became jealous of him. He called Varuna - Lord of the Rain, and told him to collect all the sources of water in the world and become one big ocean, then destroy Madurai. Varunan did likewise. When the swelling waters reached the eastern boundary, God Somasundarar appeared in Ukira Pandyan’s dream as a sithar and told him, “The swelling ocean is approaching Madurai to engulf it. Use the weapon I gave and save the land.” Ukkira Pandyan collected his ministers and reached the eastern boundary. There he saw the swelling sea. He took the spear and aimed it at the watery enemy. Immediately the ocean shrank and was reduced to just a little water that bathed the king’s feet as if to surrender. Thus he won the war against Varuna.

During the reign of Ukkira Pandyan, there was a prolonged drought in the whole of Thamil Nadu. There was a famine too. The Chola, Chera, Pandya kings went to seek advice from the rishi called Agasthiyar.

He told them the drought and subsequent famine would continue for 12 years and advised them to seek the help of Indra, Lord of Thunder. The three kings followed his advice and after having observed the Somavara Fasts were able to reach Indra Lokam. Indra welcomed them and directed them to three seats at a lower level than his. Both Chera and Chola kings sat on the seats allocated to them, while Ukkira Pandyan went up to Indra’s throne and sat there on a side.

Indra ignored him and asked the reason for their coming to him.

They said that there was no rain in their lands and that was why they came to him. Indra ordered the rains to pour in their lands only. He gave them many presents and sent them away. Indra pretended to be pleased with Ukkira Pandyan and gave him a necklace that would shrink and suffocate him. But Ukkira Pandyan wore it like a garland and sat unharmed. Indra told Ukkira Pandyan, “O Pandya from today you will be known as the one bearing the necklace.”

Pandyan ignored him and went back to Madurai. Now in Thamil Nadu the lands of the Cheras and Cholas got plenty of rain. The Pandya Nadu was experiencing the drought. One day Ukkira Pandyan went hunting to Pothiyamalai. He found four clouds including the one called Puthgalavathar over the mountains.

He captured them and put them in prison. They were servants of Indra and Indra was wild with anger. He came down and surrounded Madurai with his army.

When Ukkira Pandyan heard about it he set out with an army to face Indra’s army. While the two enemies were fighting Ukkira Pandyan sent the weapon God Siva gave him. It struck Indra’s crown and broke it into pieces. Indra got frightened and took flight. He sent a message to the king, “I will send rain to your country. Please release my clouds.

The king didn’t trust Indra knowing his treacherous ways but one of his citizens told the king that he would stand for surety and to please release the clouds. Trusting him, Ukkira Pandyan released the clouds. Thereafter there was enough rain in the Pandya kingdom too and the land prospered.


Colombo Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple:

Flag hoisting ceremony
Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar

Ponnambalam Arunachalam

In the history of Hinduism in Sri Lanka, the 19th century is significant as a period of constructional activities in an unprecedented scale. A large number of Hindu temples were either restored or newly constructed on some parts of the country where Hindus were settled in substantial numbers. A large number of Hindu temples were restored in the Jaffna Peninsula, Trincomalee and in the District of Batticaloa. The most notable among the newly constructed temple was Ponnampalavaneswaram at Kotahena in the city of Colombo.

In fact, in the mid-19th century a considerable number of Hindu temples had come into existence in the city of Colombo and other towns in the Southern and Central parts of the country where settlements of Hindu communities were established in consequence of political and economic developments under British rule. Further, a substantial proportion in Colombo were Hindus and among them entrepreneurs in the Business profession had a commanding influence.

Despite their diverse origins they were drawn together by religions sentiment and a deep attachment to traditional Hindu values. Those who were articulate and motivated with a deep sense of commitment for the cause of preserving and fostering Hindu culture assumed positions of leadership in mobilizing support for the establishment of Hindu Institutions, some of which have become exemplary and among them Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam was the most outstanding pioneer. His father-in-law Coomaraswamy Mudaliyar, who belonged to the first generation of Jaffna Tamils settled in Colombo and was the first Tamil representative in the Legislative Council was responsible for establishing two Hindu Temples in Colombo – the Kathiresan Temple at Gintupitty and Muttuvinayakara Temple at Chetty Street.

Ponnambalam Mudaliyar who had a deep attachment to Saivism, the religion of his ancestors, found that there was no temple dedicated for the worship of Lord Shiva in Colombo, where worship could be conducted according to Hindu custom. He initiated measures for mobilizing support for the establishment of such a temple and the response from the Merchant Community was most favourable.

The leading Merchants of the Chettiar Community who were always in the forefront in extending generous support for promoting the cause of Hinduism, were a source of inspiration to him.

Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple
A large sum was collected and from a portion of that amount a plot of land at Sea Street, which was formerly the property of Captain John Foulstone was bought on July 5, 1856. Soon the process of constructing the temple began and the architects were brought from South India for that purpose.

On the completion of the building program, the consecration ceremony was held in November 1857 and in commemoration of this event a copper plate inscription was installed in the temple. The second consecration ceremony was also conducted by Ponnambalam Mudaliyar. He was succeeded to the post of Manager by his eldest son Kumaraswamy Mudaliyar, who was responsible for conducting the third consecration ceremony in 1882. Ponnambalam Ramanathan assumed control of affairs as a manager since the death of his elder brother in 1906. Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan who had a deep understanding of Hinduism and Hindu Art and architecture had conceived the notion of replacing the existing buildings with those of stone construction.

It was also his ambition that the temple should be transformed into a monument of architectural grandeur so that it could be a lasting memorial to the religious piety and dignity of its founder. He invited specialists on Hindu architecture from South India and in consultation with them developed the plan for the building program.

Because of his commanding personality and the reputation he enjoyed in the country he was able to implement his program without impediments. As he was the eldest member of the family of the Founder and because of the immense popularity he enjoyed among the Hindu community, his authority in respect of temple affairs was unhindered.

The reconstruction of the temple as a monument in stone was a major undertaking accomplished at his own expense. Indeed, it was a unique achievement.

In modern Sri Lanka no one else had devoted his energies and resources an on undertaking of comparable magnitude. In fact, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan was the architect of Ponnampalavaneswaram temple and his achievement should be cherished as landmark in the history of Hinduism in modern Sri Lanka.

Among the Hindu temples of Sri Lanka, Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple has consistently enjoyed a reputation that has never been surpassed by others on account of the regularity of religious services, the efficiency of its administration and the level of transparency in the interaction with the public.

At Ponnampalavaneswaram Temple worship is ritually conducted six times daily in conformity with agamic traditions.

The second session of worship is concluded with ritual offerings and worship is conducted at the main shrine.

The third session of worship is called Uchikalapooshai (worship at noon time), the fourth session of worship begins at 3.00 pm and ends before sunset. The fifth session of worship commences at 7.00 pm when Moolamoorthy is consecrated, adorned and worshiped while offerings are made. This worship is accompanied with Mangala Vathiyam. the annual festival at Ponnampalavaneswaram temple is conducted for a period of ten days. In fact, the flag hoisting ceremony commences today and ends with chariot festival in which a large number of devotees participate.


Hinduism in Sri Lanka
K S Sivakumaran

A historically supported authentic book on one of the oldest religions in the world – Hinduism – as practised in our country is by Prof S Pathmanathan. This book is in Thamil and published jointly by the All Ceylon Hindu Congress and Kumaran Book House. One wishes that the scholar writes this in English or get it translated for clarifying issues raised by some regarding the missing pages of Lankan history. Originally published in 2005, this massive book of researched material runs into 464 pages.

There are well defined six sections and 16 chapters covering the following. Early Anuradhapura period, Post Anuradhapura period, Period of Chola regime, Polonnaruwa period (Monarchs and Temples), Polonnaruwa period (Mercantile Clans and Culture) and Polonnaruwa period (Temples and Images).

The book includes publishers’ Note, foreword, index of cultural symbols, colour pictures, reference sources and an index. An added source is reference on primary sources and Books and Articles – all given in English.

When we say “Hinduism” it is a religion based on the Vedas. It includes Saivaism, Vaishnavism and Jainism. Centuries ago Saivaism was widely spread in the whole of India. It was practised in present Camboochia and Indonesia. With the advent of the Turks in India Saivaism lost it’s flavour. In the north of India Vaishnavism took roots.

Generally Lankan Thamilians are Saivaites. Buddhism came to Sri Lanka in third century AD during the reign of Emperor Asoka of India. It was Saivaism that was prevalent in Lanka before the coming of Mahinda, son of Asoka. There is close relationship between the Buddhists and Saivaists. A considerable number of people who inhabited the island were Saivaites.

Since ancient times people speaking the Thamil language came from southern India and settled down in the coastal area of Lanka. Europeans who served in Lanka during the 17th and 18th centuries have written about this in their records. The reason for this was of the fact that South India and Lanka were identified as one Trade Zone. Since early times people from Kerala and Thirunelvely in Southern India were settling in coastal areas of the Island.

The above gleaned from this valuable book that combines useful information on Saivaism and a part of Lankan history. The book will be available from the All Ceylon Hindu Congress office in the Colombo Fort.

Siva and Parvathi


No comments: